UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies (SSEES)



15 Early Stage Researchers (ESRs) will conduct research into various aspects of populism/illiberalism and look for strategies liberal democracy may employ to counteract them.

The FATIGUE programme as the whole will be built around the guiding educational and research principle of cross-disciplinary work in the tradition of area studies. All ESRs will be enrolled on a PhD programme at one of the six universities in the FATIGUE consortium:

  • UCL School of Slavonic and East European Studies (co-ordinating institution)
  • University of Belgrade (UB)
  • Charles University, Prague (CUNI)
  • Corvinus University of Budapest (CUB)
  • Jagiellonian University, Krakow (UJ)
  • University of Tartu (UT)

The programme will be structured thematically and ESRs will be encouraged to use their disciplinary and multidisciplinary expertise in economics, politics, sociology, history and/or culture to develop innovative responses to the problems of delayed transformational fatigue. The ESRs will have the opportunity to work in an inter- and cross-disciplinary environment, while developing their specific disciplinary expertise.

In the second year of the programme all ESRs will spend 10 months at one of the other FATIGUE universities and be seconded to one of our partner organisations, which include Amnesty International, British Library, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, Minority Rights Group and Transparency International. These secondments will ensure that the ESRs receive training in and hands-on experience of converting their research into policy, engaging with stakeholders and members of the public, and disseminate findings via a range of media. At the same time, training modules in a range of transferrable skills will ensure the professional development of the ESRs.

The research programme will be organised in five work packages, each centred on a research theme pertinent to one or more post-communist EU member-states, accession states or states in the EU’s Eastern Partnership:

WP1: Illiberal democracy and right-wing politics

The aim of WP1 is to focus on studying the nature, scope, and depth of illiberal challenges to democracy in Europe as a whole and identifying its specific ‘East European’ or ‘post-communist’ variants, if they can be isolated. The sources, forms and political consequences of the ‘rise of the right’ will be analysed.

WP2: Politics of memory

The aim of WP2 is to concentrate on the politics of memory. Tensions between ethnic communities and with neighbouring states of-ten arise over differing interpretations of past events or over the way in which historical personalities and events are commemorated for specific political purposes. The task will be to take stock of these processes and assess their impact of the quality of democracy.

WP3: Economic populism and inequality

The aim of WP3 is to focus on the relationship between transitional fatigue and the performance of CEE transition economies, which is often uneven and certainly unsatisfactory in the eyes of many people in the post-communist states. ESRs will concentrate, in particular, on the emergence of economic populism and its impact on economic growth and convergence among the CEE economies as well as on inequality across the region.

WP4: Cultures of reaction: xenophobia, anti-Semitism, homophobia, anti-migrant sentiment

The aim of WP4 is to examine the increase in xenophobia, anti-Semitism, homophobia and anti-migrant sentiment associated with illiberalism. The post-communist transformation deprived many people of security, not only economic or personal, but also what may be called ‘mental security’, a feeling that one lives in a system whose workings are familiar and predictable. Increased mobility and openness, the unstoppable influx of new ideas, exposure to ‘alien’ ways of life, increasingly fluid boundaries of once comprehensible societies (for example due to migration) have resulted in a subjective feeling of living in an unfamiliar, unpredictable world. This generates fear, anxiety and an often unbearable sensation of excessive risk.

WP5: Civil society and protest movements

The aim of WP5 is to focus on examining various forms of citizens’ engagement in public life and politics, particularly as drivers, components and symptoms of ‘delayed transformational fatigue’. By studying a broad range of forms of associationism and types of mobilisation, often unconventional and thus frequently overlooked by researchers, the ESRs will reassess the still prevailing view that civil society in post-communist countries is weak. Protest politics and social movements, as important components of transformational politics, will be also studied.

Read detailed information on Early Stage Researchers (ESRS)